We can clearly hear Yelena Eckemoff’s compositions as influenced by years of experience with classical music. Her work is a synthesis of jazz and classical music, drawing mainly on Impressionism, which reflects in harmony, melody, but especially in painting and instrumentation that clearly points to Impressionist inspiration. Leaving Everything Behind is a composing, remarkable album that links only seemingly distant two different worlds and makes it a very sophisticated and unique way.
Leaving Everything Behind
The songs fuse together jazz and classical sensitivity with a great balance, which is usual for Eckemoff, but in this case it is even more highlighted by the fact that the compositions date to a time when the pianist was not that familiar with jazz, and also by the presence of the violin as the solo instrument. Feldman weaves plots of chamber lyricism. Street and Hart are those who offer more jazzier element. Eckemoff’s piano has a more classical edge, even though it can offer authentic and original jazz moments, The title track, a successful melody that takes great advantage of Hart’s wonderful work and that really embodies the album, in which the fusion of styles is, in its complexity, as captivating and elegant, as multifaceted enough to ensure continuous attention of the audience.
On ‘Leaving Everything Behind’ she interprets her own older titles, on her side the sensitive drummer Billy Hart and the gripping bassist Ben Street. But the most daring decision was to fill up the band with the violinist Mark Feldman, whose tone is between Wiener Kaffeehaus, Gypsy Soul and New Music and who often gives the music his own very special twist.
Feldman is a particularly inspired choice. While Yelena’s background is in classical music, Mark’s is in both country and classical music, and so they both bring to their jazz and improvisation vast, broader musical hinterlands that feed into their creations. And Eckemoff’s music truly merits that expanded horizon. There are strong jazz elements in it – lithe rhythms, a loosening of the imagination, a flexing of the improvisational wings – but at the same time it avoids many jazz conventions and feels completely free of jazz cliche. That is surely down to the writing which is more classical in its impressionism and sense of development; you won’t find any head/solos/head stuff here! Yet its openess, its flexibility and freedom is definitely true to jazz.
An impressionistic set, with an unusual piano/violin combination over skittering rhythms. At times haunting, at others like a gentle daydream, this emotional music balances Eckemoff’s classical background with a free-flowing spirit of journey, occasionally incorporating moments of free improvisation.
Her compositions reflect personal experiences and contemplations, – as evidenced in her own self-painted CD cover, an autumn landscape with birches, a hazy sky and a small forest lake in the foreground, – describe natural phenomena, and its impressions on her, in compositions that came from her past but belong now to the present; the flair of a past life that is mirrored in whirling life now. Eckemoff’s predominantly linear way of playing, with only a few chords, and largely without chord changes, but is not so straight aligned, also seems abstract, and renounces an excess of emotionality.
Partly touching autobiographical, partly reflections on love and death, painful farewells, but also everyday happenings, Yelena Eckemoff and her ensemble performed in classic form in – with a distinct “blue note” feeling and occasional excursions into the experimental.
The Russian jazz pianist Yelena Eckemoff studied classical piano at the Gnessin Institute in Moscow, then worked as a piano teacher at Moscow music schools and gave her her first solo concerts. With “Leaving Everything Behind” she takes her audience on a time journey into her past. She has compiled pieces that she has written […]
Eckemoff plays linearly, not so much while switching soloist and accompanist hats but as if lacing a thread through extemporized fabrics with various degrees of prominence in the mix. Always, her pedaling is subtle and expressive, her tone liquid or, as Chopinists like to say, “pearly.” More often, her music is abstract, suggesting rather than depicting deep currents of emotion, always with candor and originality.
Eckemoff is regarded today as one of the most sensual and phenomenal form of jazz overseas. 11 premiere compositions as always has full sensitivity attention to form and sound peculiar beauty, which Yelena Eckemoff accustomed us to her records.
There’s the sense of sharing the sheer physical thrill of Eckemoff’s keyboard-writing. This is particularly evident in the faster movements such as the fierce and brilliant fugal piece ‘Love Train’ that features a three-way counterpoint between Eckemoff, violinist Mark Feldman and bassist Ben Street and in the outer sections of ‘A Date in Paradise’. Common to both is a sense of being fleet but never breathless, with time enough for textures to tell. …You can be in no doubt of the thought that has gone into this enterprise, from Yelena Eckemoff’s ordering of the pieces, the story behind each, which she explains in the booklet, to the programming of the music itself right from the opening ‘Prologue’. At every turn she harnesses the power of the piano in the service of the music to mesmerizing effect, all of which is captured by a warmly sympathetic recording and engaging booklet-notes by the composer herself. Let’s cherish this disc, like we ought to do with every one that Yelena Eckemoff produces.
Having trained as a classical pianist at the Moscow State Conservatory, Eckemoff’s classical chops were finely honed. She became interested in jazz in her 20s, so even the oldest pieces here were born with jazz leanings. Her jazz recordings have always had a strong through-composed element, giving them a classical chamber music foundation within an improvisational jazz setting. These pieces demonstrate a creative common thread present in Eckemoff’s music for many years. This band embraces both the compositional framework and the improvisational elements, producing a seamless, emotional result.
Effortlessly modern, with nothing to prove beyond total involvement in the moment, Eckemoff presents the listener with a thoroughly modern, yet intimate and highly personal sound-world. …Leaving Everything Behind is definitely not one of those floaty, ECM-like, chilled-out chamber jazz albums. Eckemoff also draws some inspiration from Russian folk music, and from modern jazz pianists such as Evans, Keith Jarrett, and perhaps even Marilyn Crispell. These influences show up on “Rising From Within,” “Coffee and Thunderstorm,” and “Love Train;” all tough, muscular, highly rhythmic tunes that have the sort of visceral tension-and-release one expects from modern jazz.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff consistently releases material that is deeply thought provoking and reflective. This time out, she leads a team with all stars Billy Hart/dr, Ben Street/b and for added exoticism, violinist Mark Feldman through a collection of originals. The songs are impressionistic and filled with water colors of sound. …Delicately delivered strong material.
Russian jazz-classical composer Yelena Eckemoff forces you to listen with every new album she leaves behind. Hers is an original, unusual multi-media campaign — designed solely to immerse all listeners in a world where every sense is engaged, coming alive with immeasurable empathy, and thus, understanding. On her newest album, Leaving Everything Behind (L&H Production), Eckemoff again writes poetry for each of her 11 original compositions — most written before American modern jazz heavily altered her classical, Russian upbringing. …The entire album is the perfect balance of the head and the heart, while telling painful stories about a love that suffers losses and yearns to thrive again in the paradise of hope. Leaving Everything Behind weaves breathtaking original music with an almost spare, Japanese haiku of accompanying poetry and an impressionistic residue in the album artwork — all created by Eckemoff.
Eckemoff repurposes earlier compositions among the fresh to tell the story of a young woman fleeing Soviet Russia and the ways in which music has constructed bridges to the places she put behind her. …This set of variations on a theme of memory is Eckemoff’s finest to date and may at last put her on a map where she has been largely ignored.